Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would modernize the hemp industry, develop specific guidelines and encourage federal research into a wide-range of potential applications for the crop.
Among other areas of investigation, it would mandate research into everything from the use of hemp food products for public school lunches to the potential therapeutic value of the crop’s extracts for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to even its ability to clear contaminants from nuclear sites.
The legislation, titled the “Hemp for Victory Act,” also focuses on research into the plant as an alternative to plastics and its ability to prevent soil erosion. And it would establish grant programs to develop studies on hemp’s potential as a domestic agricultural commodity and to create tools to protect farms growing it.
While the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and its derivatives, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are actively developing regulations for the crop. USDA rules are expected to be released ahead of the 2020 planting season, and FDA has indicated that regulations providing for the lawful marketing of hemp as food items or dietary supplements may take years without congressional action.
Gabbard’s proposal goes far beyond simply developing baseline regulations to cultivate, process and sell hemp products, though. Here’s what the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s legislation entails for each federal department, according to a summary of the 24-page bill circulated by her office:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
—Establish a grant program for universities to “conduct research on establishing hemp as a domestic agricultural commodity.”
—Study the nutritional value of hemp foods, drinks and supplement products.
—Study whether such hemp products could be used as “low-cost healthy alternatives” for public school lunches for low-income students.
—Research whether items being used by the federal government its contractors could be substituted by hemp-based products.
—Study the potential of hemp “for soil erosion control and as a windscreen.”
—Create guidance for cultivating organic hemp.
—Designate hemp as a “high priority research” crop eligible for grants that would be used to “develop and disseminate science-based tools and treatments to combat noxious species that impact hemp farms, and to establish and areawide integrated pest management program.”
—Research the economics of the international hemp market.
—Study the “use and presence of agricultural chemicals and pathogens” in hemp to inform public safety standards.
—Make hemp available for grants to conduct research “on the cultivation of hemp as a commodity, including production guidance for underserved and rural communities and technical assistance for available grants.”
—Integrate hemp into market research publications.
—Study how to create “buffer zones” between marijuana and hemp farms to avoid cross-pollination.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
—Study the “presence of pathogens in hemp-based and hemp-blended products and their impact on the health and safety of consumers.”
—Study whether hemp can be used as a substitute for health care industry products used to deliver, create, store or administer prescription drugs.
Small Business Administration
—Develop guidance manuals for individuals interested in creating a small business, “which will focus on Native Hawaiians, Indian Tribes and veterans.”
U.S. Department of Defense
—Study what items used by the DOD could be substituted with hemp.
—Study the impact of using hemp and derivatives such as CBD “on military preparedness.”
—Study the use of hemp as an “alternative to current health supplements with regard to the armed forces deployed in support of contingency operations, and its effect on preparedness, physical and mental health, and safety,” which includes active and non-active service members diagnosed with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
—Study hemp’s potential to “clear contaminants from nuclear sites and heavy metal contamination.”
U.S. Department of Labor
—Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure the health and safety of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
—Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure fair, equitable and proper treatment of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
—Study how the cultivation of hemp can assist in weed control, reducing ecological damage, detoxifying carbon dioxide and preventing soil erosion.
—Study how hemp can be used to “clear impurities in water, wastewater, sewage effluent and post-disaster relief due to flooding or animal waste.”
—Study whether hemp could be used as a substitute for certain plastics and also research whether such a substitute could reduce “landfill waste and ocean pollution.”
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
—Study the “the use of hempcrete for affordable and sustainable housing.”
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
—Study the potential benefits of hemp in the treatment of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, depression and anxiety among veterans.
Gabbard has been a long-standing advocate for cannabis. She filed a bipartisan bill in March that would federally deschedule marijuana, and she repeatedly spoke in favor of legalizing hemp prior to the passage of the Farm Bill.
The congresswoman spoke during her presidential campaign launch speech about how the criminal justice system “puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”
Read the full text of Gabbard’s hemp bill below:
Gabbar 023 XML by on Scribd
Photo element courtesy of Lorie Shaull.